Clockwise from left: Harlem Unbound, Infinity Gauntlet, Escape From Flat Earth, and The Game of Real Life.Image: Chaosium, Inc., Z-Man Games, I Love Toast, Jesse Finkelstein
Welcome back to Gaming Shelf, io9’s column all about board games and tabletop roleplaying games. It’s now been a couple of weeks since social distancing started, making at-home game nights feel more important than ever. We’ve got some suggestions on things to play at home, as well as some upcoming releases that take Thanos, Friday the 13th, and Lovecraftian mythos to a whole new level. Plus, we’ve got some free games to check out.
News and Releases
Gaming While Social Distancing
Looking for new board games and RPGs to try by yourself, with a partner, or your family? We’ve published a series of articles over the past week to help you during times of of social distancing. Be sure to check them out here: solitary games, two-player games, family-friendly games, and board games that are available online. There are other resources that have been coming out in recent weeks that can also help—for example, the latest Bundle of Holding is dedicated to solitary tabletop roleplaying games.
Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game
No, this game isn’t about trying to secretly send a love letter to Thanos (although that would be amazing). Z-Man Games’ Infinity Gauntlet is a Marvel card game based on the rules of Love Letter. In this version, one player takes on the role of Thanos who’s trying to collect all the Infinity Stones, while the others play Marvel heroes trying to stop him. Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game is set to come out this summer.
Friday the 13th: Horror at Camp Crystal Lake
The classic summer camp horror flick now has its first official board game. The Op has announced Friday the 13th: Horror at Camp Crystal Lake, where players take on the role of stereotypical horror tropes like the Jock and the Final Girl to survive five nights of Jason’s terror. The game is set to cost $30 and will come out sometime this summer.
Rolling Realms, a Free Game
Jamey Stegmaier, the designer behind Scythe, has released a free pen-and-paper dice game called Rolling Realms. According to Dicemaker, the designer created the game over a weekend as a way to help folks while they’re social distancing—it’s also the reason why the game was shared as a free download. You can find the instructions here. Stegmaier has also been playing the game live on Stonemeier’s Facebook page, for folks wanting a tutorial.
Harlem Unbound 2nd Edition
Jordan Peele’s Lovecraft Country may not be coming to HBO anytime soon, but there’s an excellent roleplaying game all about unpacking the racism and bigotry in classic Lovecraftian lore. Chaosium Inc. has released a second edition of Chris Spivey’s Harlem Unbound, the ENnie-winning sourcebook set in the world of Call of Cthulhu. Taking place in Harlem in the 1920s, this storyline dives into the Cthulhu Mythos while also confronting the real-life monsters of 20th century America. The sourcebook includes seven scenarios—four of which are brand-new to this edition—along with unique occupations, interesting monsters, and what Chaosium Inc. calls a “crash course on addressing race in gaming.” Harlem Unbound costs $22 and is available on DriveThruPDF.
Jacqueline Fine, one of the newest investigators to join Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Image: Fantasy Flight Games
Arkham Horror: The Card Game Investigator Decks
For folks interested in trying out new investigators—or eagerly anticipating the day we can once again play in-person with one another—Fantasy Flight Games has announced a series of Investigator Starter Decks for Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Each one of the five decks includes a pre-built and ready-to-play 34-card investigator deck, along with 26 more cards to help you upgrade your deck throughout a campaign. These decks enable new players to try out Arkham Horror without buying the whole Core Set, and give experienced players some new investigators to try out. The Investigator Starter Decks are currently available for preorder (although the website wasn’t working the last time I checked) and set to come out by this fall.
Note: The covid-19 pandemic and Trump’s trade war with China have impacted board game production. We strongly advise you check with Kickstarter developers about possible delays, but don’t let that dissuade you from supporting these campaigns.
The Game of Real Life
We’re all dealing with serious stresses right now, so it’s nice to point out unique things that people are doing to help our mental health. Jesse Finkelstein, a doctoral student in clinical psychology, has collaborated with mental health experts to create The Game of Real Life. Based on the principles of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, players are encouraged to solve complex problems by utilizing different DBT skills, presented as cards. The Game of Real Life will be on Kickstarter through May 24. The minimum pledge for a digital copy is $20 while a physical copy is $38, and it’s expected to come out in May. However, Finkelstein has also made the PDF copy available now as a free print-and-play download to help those struggling during social distancing.
Sanctuary: The Keepers Era
Sanctuary: The Keepers Era is an asymmetrical card game for 1-2 players, taking on the role of Faction leaders trying to destroy the opponent in a brutal war. Each player has their own skills and abilities, which they have to employ creatively in order to win the game and conquer Elnerth for yourself. Sanctuary: The Keepers Era will be on Kickstarter through April 24. The minimum pledge for a copy of the portable card game is $14 while the full edition is $43, and both are set to come out in March 2021.
Since many of us can’t see our family or friends as often as we’d like right now, it’s the good time to emphasize being really, really nice to each other. Flatter Me is a two-player card game that turns War into a battle of compliments. Players take turns revealing cards from their deck, and when a compliment suits the other person’s personality they get to take both cards (except in the case of a tie, which turned into a Battle Royale of niceness). Flatter Me will be on Kickstarter through April 17. The minimum pledge for a copy is $20 and is set to come out in October.
Aquanauts is a worker placement game where players are researchers at an underwater facility seeking to explore the ocean depths. Players set out their teams to gather underwater resources, build facilities, improve their research, or even undergo public projects to increase awareness. Players can work together, which yields even better results, but ultimately only one researcher will emerge as the winner. Aquanauts will be on Kickstarter through April 10. The minimum pledge for a copy is $48 and it’s set to come out in March 2021.
Escape From Flat Earth
What if the Flat Earth theory was real? Well, it’s not exactly true in this case, but a version of it is. In Escape From Flat Earth, players are members of the Red Suits team (get it) that’s been stranded on a Flat Planet with few resources and very little time. Players have to adjust to an evolving mission timeline, revealed through cards, to make sure they survive and are able to make it back to the ship. This tongue-in-cheek game contains plenty of references to popular sci-fi films and shows—not just Star Trek—and seems like a fun and silly way to spend half an hour. Escape From Flat Earth will be on Kickstarter through April 7. The minimum pledge for a copy is $20 and it’s set to come out in March 2021.
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